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Alumni Spotlight

Welcome to our Alumni Spotlight where we will feature alumni of the East Rockaway School District. The alumni spotlight is designed to keep the community up-to-date with all our students accomplish upon graduation.

Should you like to participate or contribute to the alumni spotlight, please contact Donna Robbins at

Alumni Spotlight

The DeMatteo familyDaniel and Theresa DeMatteo Daniel & Theresa DeMatteo, Class of 1999

After graduating from East Rockaway High School, Daniel began working in New York City. He regularly walked by the Fashion Institute of Technology and was compelled to check it out. His passion for art was clear as an East Rockaway student. He recalls spending a lot of time with Mr. Bishop who was instrumental in encouraging Daniel to pursue a career in the arts. Although it never dawned on Daniel to pursue fashion, his artistic abilities and enrollment in FIT began it organically.

After graduating at the top of his class at FIT, which brought him to France, Italy, and all over the world to study menswear design, he landed his first fashion job at Nicole Miller.

In 2005, Daniel started his own business. It was an uphill battle the entire way, but he wouldn't change it for anything. While Daniel is a menswear designer by trade, he is also an entrepreneur and a consultant, as well. He worked with every major brand in the garment district; Donna Karan, Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, and more. His business in design and consulting catapulted his career in fashion. In 2012, he launched his own fashion brand. He is grateful for his career which has taken him all over the world; China, India, Japan, and many others.

As an East Rockaway High School athlete, Daniel played football, basketball, and volleyball. As an elected East Rockaway School District BOE member, he is eager for the field to be rebuilt and takes great pride in the opportunity to give back to the community by having played an integral part in its development. Daniel believes his connections from East Rockaway were instrumental in shaping his future. The most important connection is meeting his wife, Theresa DeMatteo, his ERHS sweetheart. While he thought Theresa was cute and loved her little braces, she was not always the nicest to him, she was a spicy Italian. Daniel shared that he fell in love immediately while courting her and knew they would get married. He believes that when you find something good you do not let it go. He describes Theresa as everything beautiful and pure. She is a great mother, wife, and partner in life. Daniel feels that Hurricane Sandy is one of the most incredible things that he has ever experienced. He is so proud of the town for showing how something so horrible can become something so beautiful by the way the community came together.

While Theresa began elementary school at East Rockaway, she briefly moved to Oceanside. She spent only a year or two at Rhame Avenue and returned to East Rockaway in 7th grade for the rest of her Junior High School and High School years. Theresa believes she would be remembered as quiet and studious. She valued academics while in school and played an instrumental role in Rock Rivalry performances, her class still holds the record for winning three years in a row, these experiences crafted some of her fondest memories at ERHS. Athletically, Theresa tried out for volleyball and cheered for a bit as well. She recalls only wanting to cheer so she could wear Daniel's football jersey around the school. Theresa has memorable experiences with many teachers at East Rockaway HS, for starters, Mr. Gerken, who was always motivating and supportive. He left a lasting impression on both Theresa and Daniel. Theresa also recalls fond memories of Mr. Cuttita, Mrs. Leary, and Mr. Pajer, however, it was Ms. Orzano that motivated Theresa to become a teacher, herself. She will forever be grateful for East Rockaway because it brought Daniel into her life, who she describes as a dedicated, hard-working, and loving husband and father.

After graduating from East Rockaway HS, Theresa studied education at Adelphi University. She graduated with a BA and MA in 2004 and has been an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn since then. Theresa is continuing her education with The College of St. Rose's CITE program, where she will graduate in 2021 and receive her school administrative license.

Theresa and Daniel were married on July 15, 2006. Although they lived in other towns and even had plans to move out of the country, they are so happy that East Rockaway has remained their home. They have always wanted to be close to family, and while visiting Daniel's parents in 2006, they saw a house for sale. Daniel suggested that they just take a look. They loved the block, fell in love with the house, and purchased that home in 2007, right before their daughter was born. Theresa and Daniel currently have a daughter in eighth grade at ERHS and a fourth-grader at Rhame Avenue. Daniel and Theresa love that their children are going through the ER Schools.

All the things that are so beautiful about East Rockaway's, "small, home-town feel," are why the DeMatteos are glad they stayed and are raising their children here. What East Rockaway lacks in numbers it makes up for in heart, tradition, and pride.
Erica Pandolfo, Class of 2009

Erica PandolfoAfter graduating from East Rockaway, Erica Pandolfo went to King's College. She received their Presidential Scholarship to study education. In 2013, she graduated with a B.A. in Elementary Education. Erica wanted to take her background in elementary education and special education and focus on educational law. She continued her studies at SUNY Buffalo Law School and graduated in 2016 with her J.D. She became an Excelsior Fellow in Albany, which is an initiative, launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, to bring highly talented recent graduates of law, graduate and professional schools into government service. Erica completed her fellowship at the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities and ultimately turned into a permanent position with the agency. Erica continues working on advocacy and law. She helps develop rules, regulations, and policy as it relates to the needs of the population she serves.

Erica has interned at the Nassau County District Attorney's Office in their Special Victims Bureau, focusing on crimes against children and the elderly. Additional experience includes working with the Buffalo Board of Education, Buffalo Family Court, and the United States Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

In Erica's current role as a Senior Attorney, she works on a variety of subject matter, including supporting individuals with developmental disabilities as they age out of their free and appropriate public education and into their adult services post-education. She helps program staff navigate a wide range of legal issues. Erica continues learning in her role every day as she works to resolves legal issues.

While currently based in Albany, Erica misses "downstate." Nothing compares to being able to hop on a train and go to the city or the beach. However, she enjoys working as a civil servant for NYS and its constituents. Erica also enjoys many hobbies and participating in her local community. For example, Erica enjoys exploring the Adirondacks and participating in local community theatre. She is a participant of the Junior League of Albany, which is an organization that promotes voluntarism, develops the potential of women, and improves its community. Junior League women are hands-on volunteers with dozens of community organizations and receive high-level training to make them valuable community leaders.

Erica was involved in theatre in high school and college. She was a member of East Rockaway musicals ever since elementary school, and fondly remembers chorus with Mr. Ezell. Erica became co-captain of the badminton team and had significant roles in Rock Rivalry, the Peer AIDS Educators, the Kiwanis Club, and Science Club. Though Erica has many cherished teachers and mentors from East Rockaway, her favorite teacher was the late Mr. Bishop. She keeps in touch with his partner and is the owner of one of his beautiful paintings.

Erica continues to maintain close friendships with her classmates from Kindergarten through High School. She believes the current societal climate has placed an increased importance on strengthening interpersonal relationships. Erica believes East Rockaway is a place that can create, support, and maintain meaningful relationships. The magic of East Rockaway is where it lives - within the community. She encourages students to give back to the community because it can serve them well if they serve it well. She also encourages students and the larger community to listen to each other, cherish one another, and be kind. Erica hopes that students can use what they learn to make East Rockaway, New York, and ultimately the world a better place.
Alison Bashford, Class of 2016

Alison BashfordAlison graduated from Muhlenberg in 2020. While a sophomore, Alison joined a research lab. At Muhlenberg, labs were set up by professors with an application based system to participate. Based on her interest in the topic, Alison sent an email to the professor. She was interviewed, and asked to join the lab. Her ability to seek opportunities that were advertised within her major exposed her to lab work studying memory and PTSD.

Alison danced her whole life and performed in Suessical, Little Shop of Horrors, Willie Wonka, and Mary Poppins while a student at East Rockaway. She knew she wanted to continue dancing while in college, and also wanted to study science. AP Bio with Mrs. Pietrantonio (Ms. Mendyk at the time) was Alison's favorite class. It spearheaded her interest in science and health. Muhlenberg offered the opportunity to pursue both of these passions. With strong programs in both of these fields, it was the best choice for her post-secondary education.

As Alison continued to explore the sciences, she realized was more interested in the brain than the whole body. In addition to exploring areas she loved, there was an overlap in course requirements. Alison concentrated in "Dance Science" in which coursework included anatomy, movement science, and more. She enjoyed diving deeper into the more scholarly aspects of dance.

Alison took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad, and continued her dance education in Arezzo, Italy; a small city in Tuscany. She believes that her experience on the Europe trip while an East Rockaway helped her make an informed decision about living abroad for six months. Studying abroad made Alison more independent and changed her perspective. As part of the program, Alison was tasked to create a solo which was one of her fondest memories of her time abroad. She merged her interest in dance and science by performing to a speech by Amelia Earhart, rather than a musical piece. In addition to the unique education, Alison traveled all over Europe to locations such as Slovenia, Copenhagen,. Denmark, Portugal,. Paris, Venice, Rome, and Florence.

Alison is currently working at NIH (National Institute of Health) where she is researching Neuroscience. She is studying stress processing and involvement with behaviors of mental illness. This position is part of a program for recent college graduates looking to pursue a post-bachelor/pre-graduate experience. Next year, Alison will apply to neuroscience PhD programs in as many East Coast cities as possible.
Daniel O'Moore (Class of 2018)

o mooreDaniel O'Moore is a student at University of Florida studying Hospitality Management. As one who is quite tech savvy, Daniel is interested in pursuing a career in the computer side of hospitality. At UF, Daniel is involved in several clubs. He is a member of the College Republicans, Gator Teck and Baptist College Ministry. Gator Teck is a hands-on computer club where Daniel has the opportunity to use different computer languages. Some of these include cyber security, data science and sintech. He found that the experience in Baptist College Ministry has been a fantastic place to meet friends and gain sense of community.

While Daniel has enjoyed dorm life for two years, he is currently at home, making remote learning work. Last March, transition to remote instruction was a challenge. He felt fortunate to have family 45 minutes from Gainesville, where UF is located. Daniel's dorm experience was a Learning/Living community of "Out of State" Gators. The building was structured with boys on one side, girls on the other, and a common space in the middle of the dorm. This made it easy to get to know people and transition to dorm life. Daniel feels he knew his community, his resident assistant and appreciates all the opportunities to get to know his neighbors, like riding the elevator. He loves Florida and misses it terribly, but is glad to be home with family.

As an East Rockaway student, Daniel was an activist. He was eager to create opportunities for his classmates, like trying to get a grant to secure a track and turf field. Daniel met with members of administration to advocate for what he felt would best support our community, and is very happy about the bond and breaking ground in March! As a member of the East Rockaway Cross Country Team, Daniel loved running. He still loves it, and is part of a running team in Florida. Before he became a Gator, Daniel played the trumpet from 4th-11th grade. He has fond memories of Mr. Schloen. His mentorship meant a lot to Daniel. As a student at East Rockaway, Daniel participated in Shrek the Musical and The Little Mermaid. He loved math class as a student, especially those with Mrs. Mignella.

While we are currently in tough times, Daniel hopes that he can encourage East Rockaway students to keep going and keep looking forward. He suggests that students try to learn organization by knowing when assignments are due and what is upcoming. This can be completed with Google Calendar, a planner, and most importantly-just writing things down somewhere. Daniel also believes there is such an importance in establishing relationships with teachers. He enjoyed having teachers to debrief with and the opportunity to talk to someone about everything. He hopes that current students are able to build the same types of relationships by reaching out to peers and teachers.
Katherine Del Valle, Class of 2017

del valleKatherine attended Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island after graduating from East Rockaway. As an East Rockaway student, Katherine enjoyed her time in the Culinary Program with Nassau BOCES. She was encouraged by a friend to attend, and they were able to enroll in BOCES together. At BOCES, Katherine participated in hands-on classes and labs. She enjoyed learning about baking and loved that BOCES classes were small. She had the opportunity to bake and cook daily. While Katherine learned culinary arts, she felt like it was different from school. Although she was learning, she was already pursuing her passion. She preferred the baking portion of the culinary program to cooking which was why Johnson & Wales was the perfect fit; she had the opportunity to focus just on baking.

Katherine's love of culinary arts began when she was five years old. While sitting on the stairs watching her grandparents cook at this age, she remembers the happiness that came out of the kitchen. As such, this career was perfect for her. Katherine currently has a small business, Cakes by Kat. She makes cupcakes, cakes, pastries, pies and special occasion sweets.

While at East Rockaway, Katherine most enjoyed Earth Science with Mr. Crowley. She appreciated that he always took the time to talk to her, and broke down what she didn't understand. Katherine also enjoyed the hands-on opportunities that the class provided. Outside of academics, Katherine loved Rock Rivalry. Some of her best East Rockaway memories were decorating the hallways, building the materials, and coming together with her class. She was also a participant in East Rockaway musicals including, Call Me Maybe and Seussical.
While painting murals for Seussical, the show at East Rockaway was cancelled because it was the year of Hurricane Sandy, but the remake took place at Malverne High School.

Katherine encourages East Rockaway students to follow their dreams. She believes that if you like something, you should do it! Rather than being afraid to try something new, we should be excited.
Tatianna Ossa, Class of 2014

t o After graduating from East Rockaway in 2014, a cheerleading scholarship brought Tatianna Lott to Lindenwood University in Illinois. Tatianna finished her last two years at SUNY Old Westbury where she earned her Bachelor's in Psychology. She most recently earned her Masters in Education in School Counseling at LIU Post and began her first school counseling position this year at Ward Melville.

Tatianna's graduation from LIU Post was held over Zoom. She didn't find this easy, as she loved being in the classroom setting and seeing her classmates. Tatianna shared that while it was different to learn on the computer screen, she realized that there was a lot for which she was grateful. Missing out on being on the college campus, seeing friends, and the one-on-one reaction with her teachers enabled her to have a new perspective. She will no longer think twice about what can be accomplished and appreciated today.

Tatianna moved to East Rockaway as a 10th grader; the first day of second semester. Coming from a very large high school in Florida where she was a competitive cheerleader on two teams, East Rockaway was quite a change and not an easy transition. While she continued to cheer at East Rockaway, she began to lose interest in many things that once were exciting, and experienced a lack of motivation. Upon participating in Senior Seminar, much of that changed. Although Tatianna notes that she was not the star student with great attendance, Ms. Hecht agreed to host her as an intern with the guidance department. Tatianna believes that the opportunities that presented themselves in Senior Seminar changed her life. She grew significantly from this experience as she and took on meaningful projects. Tatianna's grades and attendance improved. She was excited to come to school every day. She found her calling through Senior Seminar and the internship. She remembered who she was and figured out that there was a career where she could make people feel good about themselves.

As our current students navigate the challenges of a new way to learn, Tatianna is reminded of Hurricane Sandy washing out our school her junior year. While she remembers adjusting to a new location getting bussed to Baldwin, she also notes good memories, like a free prom. After learning and growing from challenges, Tatianna takes every day as a blessing. She experienced a genuine care and responsiveness at East Rockaway that allowed her to develop. She hopes current students take advantage of what the school has to offer.
Ken Anderson, Class of 2010

kaKenneth earned his Advanced Regents Diploma from East Rockaway in 2010. He spent the next four years at SUNY Albany where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminal Justice, and Art Minor. Upon graduation from Albany, Ken began working for Northwell Health at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville. He is currently the Lead Certified Rehabilitation Counselor in their vocational department to support clients with mental health disorders achieve job success, as well as young adults with disabilities. Ken works with local school districts to support students transition from high school to their postsecondary goals.

In addition to education at SUNY Albany, Ken received his Masters of Education in Rehabilitation and Mental Health from Hofstra University. He is a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC), and has a limited permit in mental health counseling. We wish Ken well as he prepares for his licensing exam in mental health counseling (LMHC).

You may know Ken as our Head Coach for Boys & Girls Varsity Cross Country, and Boys Varsity Track. He has been the Head Coach for the past three years and coaching with East Rockaway since 2015.

Ken loved growing up in East Rockaway. He enjoyed the family atmosphere, where "everybody is somebody." Some of his favorite classes included art with Mr. Bishop, math with Mrs. Orzano, and Italian with Mr. Cuttita. Ken enjoyed participating in Rock Rivalry as part of the Entrance and Sports Night. His class won the cup as juniors and seniors. Ken competed in "Its Academic Quiz Bowl" against other schools on Long Island. He was also a member of the football team since he was in 7th grade, and the Track & Field Team since 8th, where he and the team qualified for State. He enjoyed contributing political cartoons to the Gull Newspaper and being a member of National Honors Society. Since East Rockaway is so small, Ken advises current students to take advantage of everything they can. While there might be more options at larger schools, he believes at East Rockaway there is more opportunity.
Andrew Machovec

1Andrew Machovec began his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame University after graduating from East Rockaway in 2018. He is currently a double major in Pre-Medicine and Scenic Design for Theatre. In addition to his studies, Andrew is a proud member of the Notre Dame Fencing Team. He recently won the ACC Men’s Foil Title and helped Notre Dame win the ACC team championship. Andrew aspires to attend medical school after he graduates Notre Dame, and anticipates participating in the 2024 Olympics.

Through the Scenic Design major, Andrew worked as a stagehand. He was promoted to Assistant Scene Manager at the end of his Freshmen year. Some of the responsibilities in this role include assuming the role of his supervisor in their absence, and making decisions on change of design. Some memorable shows include Pirate of Penzance, Great Gatsby, and Imaginary Invalid. While a student at East Rockaway, he participated in musicals working on A/V effects, and stage set. This participation ignited his interest in set design. Memorable shows include Mary Poppins, Shrek and The Little Mermaid. He was a member of Senior Band, Jazz Band, and Marching Band where he played alto sax & baritone sax.

As a high school student, Andrew shared one of his most memorable classes being AP Art. He enjoyed the independent experience that allowed him to explore and discover himself. His project in Mrs. Galante’s class focused on furniture design. Andrew believes that his experience at East Rockaway was unique to students at other schools. He shared that the teachers at East Rockaway really care about their students. Andrew encourages current students to create teacher relationships, adding that they are even worthwhile once you graduate. He is still in touch with a lot of teachers, and values his relationship with Mr. Schleon, his former band teacher.

As a Notre Dame student, Andrew is challenged, while having a lot of fun. He believes AP classes, like AP Biology really prepared him for the rigorous environment. While in college, time management is extremely important due to Andrew’s classes and fencing travel schedule which runs 10 weekends out of the semester. Typical conditioning practice is Monday through Friday, twice a day. Last season, Andrew made the US World Team again, and is ranked 1st in the country! For the ACC championships, he was named first in individual, and in team, ACC fencer of the year, and MVP for men's Notre Dame fencing.

During Andrew’s sophomore year, he traveled to Europe. The pandemic is the longest time that Andrew has been home since. His mom likes that everyone is together during this time, and he and his brothers are getting along so well.

Some advice to East Rockaway students is to create a schedule, and stick to it. Even though classes are currently online and coursework can be completed whenever students choose, Andrew maintains the times of his in-person classes to study and complete assignments. Sometimes, if we say it will be done “eventually,” it doesn’t always get done. He also believes that even though East Rockaway is a small town, anything can be accomplished if you put your mind to it. After all, the number one fencer in the country is a Rock!


Justin Jonas

jjJustin is a 2012 graduate from East Rockaway Jr./Sr. High School and a 2016 graduate from Towson University. While an undergrad, Justin studied Sports Management. Justin received a Masters in Athletic Administration from Adelphi University.

As an East Rockaway student, Justin played football and basketball, and was a referee for local basketball leagues. Some of his fondest memories as a Rock include playing the junior and senior football championships at Hofstra University, being on the Quiz Bowl Trivia Team, and playing The Game of Life in Mr. Lores’s Sports Marketing class. Justin believes the perspective he learned on his future in this class enabled him to understand his capabilities, and perhaps inspired him to pursue his current career path.

While in college Justin worked with the Washington Redskins in recruitment scouting. Not only was this a valuable experience, but it led him to a position with front office sales. His career continued in sports working in ticket sales for the Brooklyn Nets. Justin played an instrumental role in opening the new Nassau Coliseum, which was over a two year process.. This brought back the Long Island championship for basketball in over 30 years with the G League Franchise of the Long Island Nets. One of Justin’s current roles is running youth basketball programs that provide youngsters with an opportunity to play at Barclays.

Justin’s suggests that students can be successful by learning to get out of their comfort zones by meeting and interacting with new people. He believes that time management skills are critical in college and career success. In his current role, Justin finds that relationship building helps basketball programs grow and create a lasting impression on their athletes.


Kevin Shiel

ks Kevin Shiel is a graduating member of East Rockaway High School Class of 2014.  After spending his first few years of high school participating in clubs and sports, Kevin decided to get a job that would help provide him vocational training.  Kevin also started enrolling in Technology and Business classes while attending our high school, which he said helped him think outside of the box, learn how to work with his hands, and learn about the business of owning your own company.  Additionally, Kevin was accepted to an Electrical Technology program at GC Tech, a vocational school in Levittown, New York.  As part of this program, Kevin spent half of his school day at East Rockaway and half of his day at GC Tech.   

After graduating, Kevin spent a semester in college before ultimately recognizing that he was meant for a different path, and left to pursue his passion of running the family business, Shiel Enterprise Inc. Kevin’s advice to students is to “Make sure you consider all of your options.  If you have a passion or a craft that you are interested in, pursue it.  Make sure you do things to continue working towards your end goal even though it may not be the traditional path taken, or what everyone else wants you to do.  There are many paths that can be taken, and it is important to have all of your information to make an informed decision.”

Alan Owens 

After graduating from ERHS in 2000, Alan Owens went on to attend SUNY Delhi and SUNY New Paltz. He graduated from New Paltz with a bachelor’s degree in Business administration and Finance. Alan currently lives in Rockville Centre, New York with his wife and their six children. Alan is currently working in the family business in Lynbrook, New York where he owns and operates a trucking company along with a Logistics company. 

East Rockaway High School has helped Alan in so many ways. East Rockaway allowed Alan to be himself and form lasting relationships with his teachers and classmates.  His classes helped him prepare for college and learn the value of hard work and time management.  Alan also participated in many extracurricular activities, but most important to him were his involvement in Rock Rivalry and being a part of the basketball team.  These are memories that he takes with him to this day.  Alan looks back at his time in East Rockaway fondly and knows that his time spent here played a large role in making him who he is today.  Alan’s advice is to not be afraid to take risks and participate in things that you are passionate about.  East Rockaway has also helped Alan keep the memory of his brothers, Patrick and Kevin Owens, alive.  The faculty has helped out with many charity events and fundraisers over the past few years, and this is something that Alan will never forget.  The support he has received from East Rockaway is more than he could’ve imagined.  


Brian Dessart 


bdAfter graduating ERHS in 1997, Brian Dessart attended Nassau Community College, where he received his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, and went on to receive a B.A. in Business Management from Molloy College in Rockville Centre. Following college, Brian had stints as the Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Richner Communications, currently located in Garden City, and as an analyst for Mizuho Corporate Bank in Manhattan. At the same time, he felt as if a career in journalism would be his best path, as it was a field that he was very passionate about since a young age. But he was also encouraged to take all of the police and fire civil service exams, as a way to fulfill an excellent, exciting and solid career. 

In Jan. 2018, Brian was hired as a firefighter with the FDNY, and he currently works at Ladder 121 in Far Rockaway. He states “It’s a life decision and career path that I will never regret — definitely one of the best choices of my life. The job is completely awesome, self-fulfilling and the people I work with are some of the best individuals I’ve ever had the opportunity to come into contact with. It’s great to have a team of colleagues — family — who always watch each other’s back”.

After being hired by the FDNY, and working to perfect his craft as a journalist, Brian was contracted by Sports Illustrated to start covering performance, fitness and action sports in 2014 — a position that allowed him to write stories from places such as Beijing, Moscow and Port-au-Prince. And since 2014, he has been grateful to receive the assignment to cover the Ironman World Championship from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. For many sports journalists, being able to write for and have a byline with SI is a dream that very few actually get a crack at. He was very lucky and beyond humbled. Then, in 2016, he became involved with SI’s NHL department and began hosting a weekly digital video series, titled the #NHLNugget, where we would give viewers a quick "60 seconds or less" historic fact about the National Hockey League, its teams and players.

Brian’s advice to the students of ERHS: “There’s no shame in being a bit jumbled and not having your life figured out when you graduate. I was literally all over the place, mentally — I couldn’t find my niche. But give it time, don’t force things upon yourself and end up being miserable. Carefully think out your career objectives, take chances and move forward. Don’t be afraid of rejection — it builds character. Be afraid of not trying in the first place. When someone tells you “no,” make every attempt to show them why they should say “yes.” Be persistent. Have passion. And everything will eventually fall into place”.


Ben Giliberti


ben photoBen Giliberti is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2013. Ben received his Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from East Stroudsburg University in 2017.  During his time at East Stroudsburg, Ben completed clinical rotations at 1 middle school, 3 high schools and a division 2 college, combining over 1,000 hours over his 4 years. He was also a member of the men’s rugby team for 4 years.

He currently is in his second year as a Certified Athletic Trainer at Valley Stream North HS, employed by Peak Performance Physical Therapy.  Athletic Trainers work in the prevention, management and rehabilitation of sports injuries. Athletic Trainers are healthcare practitioners trained in injury evaluation and diagnosis, emergency medicine, first aid, gen. med conditions and therapeutic exercise and modalities.  Ben shared, “the best part of the job is watching my athletes work hard and overcome adversity while competing at their highest level. Sports at ERHS was a major part of my life; athletic training was a way to stay involved and give back to high school student athletes by keeping them safe and provide a positive impact to a special group.”

Ben’s advice to ERHS students is to, “do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.”

Vincent Arena


ERHS would like to welcome back from the class of 2013, Vincent Arena.  Vincent graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Design Innovation and Society in 2017.

Currently, Vincent is an Entrepreneur, building sustainable businesses focused on solving problems facing society and the environment. He has spent the last 12 months working on personal ventures and products, the main one being building a new coffee franchise starting in Long Island. One coffee shop is located in Island Park (Tazzetto Coffee) and another one is opening soon in RVC focused on innovation, sustainability, and authentic Italian food, coffee, and culture.  Vincent is also involved in public speaking, and he hopes to make this more of a larger part of his career moving forward. Recently, he gave a talk at Stanford University in front of 300 college students when he was a mentor for the University Innovation Fellows program.

His advice to fellow ERHS students is to “find a MISSION, not a major. Think about what impact you want to have on the world, then figure out how to get there - it may be a path that you never thought was possible.
Carry around a journal, reflect on every day and think about what you are grateful for, and what you will do differently tomorrow. Learning is a lifelong journey and shouldn't just happen in school.  

Critical thinking and creativity are the most important skills for a successful career, so question everything - if you are doing something a certain way just because that's how it's always been done, most likely it could be done differently, or better! If you focus your career on helping others, the money will come. If you are interested in starting your own business one day, being innovative is a mindset. Instead of looking for the next best ideas, look for problems. Once you find a problem worth solving, pursue it with all you got.” 

 Carly Howard


Carly Howard, East Rockaway Class of 2014, just graduated from Molloy College, where she majored in Nursing and is currently a Labor and Delivery Nurse. While attending Molloy College, Carly was a part of the Molloy Nursing Student Association, where she later became the secretary, then eventually the President of the association. Being a part of the club taught Carly to network, learn more about nursing, and explore the different opportunities available with nursing. Carly also got to represent Molloy College and the New York State Nursing Student Association at the annual convention two years in a row, 2017 in Dallas, TX, and 2018 in Nashville, TN. Besides being a part of the nursing association, outside of school, Carly worked at South Nassau Communities Hospital as a Nurse’s Aide where she got to build up on her nursing skills and get more experience with patient centered care.  

When Carly was at East Rockaway High School, she learned to juggle school, sports, and clubs. Being able to be involved in so much at school helped Carly prepare for college. Classes, clinical, running for Molloy’s cross country and track team for a while, and being actively involved with the nursing student association was a lot, but it helped mold her into the individual she is today. Her advice for future Nursing majors is to get involved with your college’s nursing club, get as much as experience as you can. For the rest of East Rockaway’s graduating class, get involved now, balance out school and clubs, it helps you stay organized, be involved, make friends, network, and most importantly, finding yourself. 

John J. Budion

john photoAfter graduating from East Rockaway, I went on to attend New York University where I studied Visual and Special effects for Film and TV. Concurrently, I was interning at several prestigious Post Production companies to put into practice, the theory I was learning in the classroom.

I graduated NYU in 2003 with my Bachelor's degree, and I currently live and work in New York City.  My occupation is completely influenced by my experience participating in the tradition of "Rock Rivalry," something unique and special to East Rockaway High School.  Being a part of RR opened my eyes to the many aspects of entertainment, creation of content, and the importance of working as a team.

In NYC, I am self employed as a Writer and Film Director, while also running a Visual Effects Company. I have a feature film titled "ROCKAWAY" that I filmed in my hometown of East Rockaway, releasing in early 2019.  The film reflects my love for basketball, which I played for 4 years under Coach Joe Lores, and the bonds of friendships that I formed in the village of East Rockaway.


Damian Amiruddin


damian photoI am currently attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a fifth year to obtain my M.S. in Chemistry. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute I participate in Rensselaer Chemistry Society, Sigma Chi fraternity and work as an independent researcher to write my thesis, Calcium Phosphate Synthesis using a Montmorillonite Template. I also participated in Relay for Life, Club baseball and J.V. baseball for the school team. I have also been a part of many community service events while attending RPI. A major notable one is Derby Days, a large event put together by my fraternity that donates the money obtained to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. After I receive my Masters Degree in May, I am hoping to obtain a job working in a laboratory setting. I greatly enjoy being hands on with the chemicals and my goal is to either work in a Research/Development or Quality control department in the government sector. My advice is to work hard and not try to coast by when attending higher level education. For me, there was a huge difference between high school and college. It was a huge awakening after receiving my first grade back that I needed to work harder and put more effort in to my work. 



Katherine Devlin

Katherine Devlin is an ERHS graduate from the Class of 2015. Recently she graduated from Nassau Community College and transferred to Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry where she is currently pursuing a degree in Social Work. While in school, Katherine is a Community Habitat Worker for adults with disabilities. It is her goal after graduation to pursue her studies at the graduate level and receive her Master’s in Social Work. Katherine plans to continue her work with adults who are disabled in a Residential Facility. Her advice for our ERHS students is to, “push yourself outside your comfort zone, don’t compare yourself to others, work hard but enjoy yourself and most important, trust your instinct.”

Felicya Schwarzman

Felicya Schwarzman is an alumnus from the class of 2013. She graduated in May 2017 from Ithaca College with a major in Music Education. During her time at Ithaca, she was a Leadership Scholar, Corresponding Editor and Editor for Sigma Alpha Iota (professional music organization). Felicya graduated magna cum laude and was also an ALANA scholar (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American Scholars) and received several merit based awards and service-related awards. One of her highlights was presenting at the American String Teacher’s Association National Conference.

She currently is a High School Orchestra and Guitar Director. Felicya is in her first year of teaching and teaches 9th grade orchestra and high school guitar ensemble, as well as, beginning a 3rd grade program at Half Hollow Hills CSD. She is also a SCMEA (Suffolk County Music Educators Association) Chairperson and is running the Division I West Orchestra All County Festival.

Felicya’s advice for all of the students at East Rockaway is “to be involved in as many activities as they are interested in. Trying out a bunch of hobbies, clubs, and sports contributes to discovering your interests that you can later pursue in college and later on in your career. Strive for excellence and don't be afraid to take risks. My biggest advice is to make meaningful connections with your teachers, professors, and other colleagues. Your network is so important and can really help you achieve your goals.”

Taylor Clarke

Taylor Clarke is a graduate from the class of 2014. Currently, Taylor is a student in Hofstra University’s Honors College, pursing a degree in journalism with a minor in American studies. On campus, Taylor serves as a transfer mentor for incoming students and is the News Editor at the campus newspaper, The Hofstra Chronicle. In the summer of 2018, Taylor will travel to Washington D.C. to work as a Junior Faculty Advisor for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, a national event that is part of the Washington Scholars program that Taylor attended as a high school student! After graduation, Taylor hopes to work in the field of political journalism, aiding candidates on the campaign trail or being part of the communications staff of an administration. Some advice that Taylor has for the students at ERHS, “Follow your passion. Getting involved in a variety of activities and classes can really help you to pinpoint what you like and dislike. Once you find something you are really passionate about, hold on to it. Passion and determination will really take you far!”

Nadine Robinson

Nadine Robinson is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s class of 2014. Currently, she is completing a Music Therapy degree with a minor in Psychology. After graduation, Nadine will be applying to graduate school to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology. It is her hope to conduct research for Music Therapy and work with active members of the military to work toward lessening the effects of PTSD.

Berklee College has specialized music classes making it different than most schools that require liberal arts as a prerequisite for classes. Nadine has learned how to balance tons of school work, with liberal arts work and practicing multiple instruments for an allotted time every day. She is thankful for the ERHS music department and how diligent and passionate Mr. Schloen and Mr. Ceglio were throughout the band.

Nadine shared some advice for our ERHS students. “First, don’t write off the clubs or arts programs you’re in. I found my passion from being in the East Rockaway band through elementary school and continuing through high school. Don’t let anyone tell you that your hobby can’t become a legitimate career. Second, make sure you have a good work ethic. It starts with high school where your time management is key, and that never goes away. Whether it’s with homework or a work-study job or practicing an instrument, it all goes back to time management. But what’s most important in that time management is making sure that you take time to keep your head straight. Find that balance between working hard and pushing towards your passion without overwhelming yourself and causing mass amounts of stress. As long as you don’t lose sight of your end goal, you’ll be golden.”

Cody Hirashima

JS imageCody Hirashima is a graduate from the Class of 2012.  Cody received his Bachelor of Engineering degree from The Cooper Union and earned a Masters of Science in Chemical Engineering from Columbia. His internship experience at AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) led him to his current employment as an Engineering Associate at the world’s leading organization (AIChE) for chemical engineering professionals.

Cody explains that his experiences at East Rockaway helped shape him for his current success.  “AP and Honors classes provided a taste of the increased workload and independence of college courses. These provided a good stepping stone for diving into the responsibilities and time management required to properly balance college life. I would credit my experience in AP Chemistry with driving my interest in pursuing Chemical Engineering, to explore the inner workings of how the world works and how to drive change that can directly impact and improve society.  I was a member of the Band and Drumline throughout my time at East Rockaway and also participated in Cross Country and Track & Field. I believe my experiences in these activities helped me to be a more well-rounded individual. Especially in band and drumline, it's important to have a creative outlet during your studies to ensure that you maintain a mental balance beyond a purely study focused mentality.”

The advice that Cody would like to share with the students at ERHS is that, “never hesitate to ask more questions, even a "stupid question" can lead to a lesson learned and never settle for "good enough". If you think your grades are "good enough" then aim for exceptional, if you always stop at good enough you'll never find that you can do something great.”

Josh Warner

Josh WarnerJoshua Warner is a graduate from the Class of 2012.  Currently, Josh is a full time Technical Director and Adjunct Lecturer of Scenic Design at CUNY York College. Most of his day is spent planning/mentoring students on how to build or actually building for one of the four productions per year. He also continues a freelance career outside of academia designing for various theaters throughout NYC and beyond. Josh opened 4 shows this past month and is looking forward to his Off-Broadway debut in February. 

Josh received an Advanced Regents Diploma from ERHS.  He decided to take 5 credits of tech courses rather than a foreign language, which allowed him the opportunity to be exposed to more visual thinking classes with tech teachers. Josh received a BFA from Emerson College in Theater Design & Technology with a concentration in Scenic Design. While in college, Josh worked part time in the carpentry shop, was involved in the student theatre and played a few games with the Quidditch team.  By the end of college, Josh had designed over 15 fully produced productions with his hand in over 50 others.

His advice to ERHS students is to “push yourself to try something that you may have an interest in - you still have plenty of time to decide if isn’t for you. Engulf yourself in what you love and don’t second guess your abilities. As I was worried about applying to Emerson and if I’d get in, Mr. Bishop looked up from his painting and said “If not you, then WHO do they want?” Believe that you are the best and push yourself to become that person.”

James Anemone

James_AnemoneJames Anemone is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s  Class of 2014.  James is currently a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.  He will be graduating this May with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Minor in Music History. James explains that the extra-curricular activities that he got involved in at ERHS, including playing in the musicals, Jazz Band and Concert Band, prepared him the most for what he is now experiencing at college.

After graduation, he plans to attend Temple University to pursue a Master’s degree in Piano Performance. He resides in Exton, PA and operates his own Piano studio.  James still performs in many concerts and competes across the country. He most recently performed at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. 

The advice that James would like to share with the students of East Rockaway is, “students need to realize that it’s okay to be undecided with what you want to do. Attending college is your best opportunity to throw yourself into a learning environment where you live life to a new level of independence while meeting new people, and exploring different possibilities for future careers. Life is far more elastic and interesting than we sometimes make it seem, and opportunities are endless.  The most important thing for a High School student who is preparing for college or beyond is to simply take all of the opportunities that comes forth. Hardly ever say no because you never know which job, internship, or class you take will be life changing.”

John Machovec


John Machovec is an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2014. John recently graduated from Syracuse University and majored in Information Management and Technology.   He received an offer to join KPMG one of the Big Four Accounting firms in New York City and will be working in their Cyber Security Services Division.  John shared that many of the classes he took here at East Rockaway, especially honors and AP courses, helped prepare him for his experiences at Syracuse.  Being enrolled in these classes also allowed John to transfer 30 credits towards his Syracuse Degree. These credits put him in an advantageous position while applying and at college.  His advice would be to not underestimate what you can accomplish while still in high school. The work which you put in now can set you up in the future in ways you may not even anticipate.”

While in college, John participated in activities outside of his academics. He chose clubs and internship experiences that were related to his major/career choice.  John discussed, “as president of the Cyber Security Club, I participated in national competitions against other schools, branches of the military, hackers and information security professionals. Our team placed in multiple national competitions winning cash prizes and the opportunity to meet the best in the field.”   John also worked as an information security intern with Sony Music at The Orchard, the industry’s leading independent distributor and label services company.

Jonathan Schloth

JS imageJonathan Schloth an alumnus of East Rockaway’s Class of 2014. Currently Jonathan is a Junior at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Jonathan shared that many of the classes he took at East Rockaway helped prepare him for the more intense workload of college. He believes that more students should get involved in college level classes that are offered at ERHS to “help the transition from high school to college.”

Jonathan has had some great experiences while at George Mason University. He is currently in an accelerated Master’s program and will be graduating in the spring of 2019.  He hopes to become a social studies teacher upon graduation.  This field has lead Jonathan to have professors that are historians, former Congressmen, lawyers, etc. Jonathan states “These are not only experts in their field, but they are experts in how we learn their content. I have not only learned facts, but critical thinking skills on a very high level that allow me to formulate rational thoughts and opinions.”

Jonathan has an extremely demanding schedule, where he has learned to balance his academics and being an athlete at a Division 1 school.  He is a member of the Cross Country/Track team.  One of the many positives of college athletics is having a consistent schedule.   His schedule consists of on most days, wake up, morning run, class in the morning/afternoon, then do homework, next go to practice for 3-4 hours. Then go get dinner with the team and do some more homework. Then I wake up the next morning and repeat. There simply isn’t the time to slack off. 

Jonathan plans to return to Long Island after he graduates to pursue a full time teaching position.  The advice he would like to share with the ERHS students is, “to take a variety of classes in high school to see what interests you, but to also challenge yourself to a more vigorous workload. If you get accustomed to the work of the harder classes, the transition to college will be so much easier. Don’t try and coast through high school even if you do not plan on going onto college. The skills you gain from learning to work hard can be applicable to anything students do in life.”